Not that the woes of Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles have been flying under the radar, but now things could turn uglier as they come under the national spotlight.
A potentially hostile home crowd awaits them Monday night with the Eagles mired in the longest losing streak of Reid’s tenure - which appears to be nearing an end - as they face the Carolina Panthers in a matchup of the NFC’s worst teams.
While Carolina (2-8) owning the conference’s worst record may be somewhat surprising, it’s more shocking Philadelphia (3-7) has sunk so far after going into this fall considered by many a Super Bowl contender. That certainly remained the case after the Eagles were 3-1 following a win over the defending champion New York Giants, but they have since lost six in a row - the last four by at least 13 points.
“I don’t know how it can get much worse,” tight end Brent Celek said. “It makes me sick.”
This is the most consecutive defeats in a single season for the franchise since dropping its final seven games of 1994, five years before Reid took over the reins.
“I know we’re letting the fans down and the city down,” Reid said. “I completely understand that. I completely understand how they feel on this. I feel it from the football team, our coaches and players. There are no excuses for it.”
Considering the high expectations entering this season, particularly after owner Jeffrey Lurie said another 8-8 season like last year would be “unacceptable,” Reid’s departure by season’s end appears to be a near certainty. Late in the Eagles’ last home game - a 38-23 defeat to archrival Dallas on Nov. 11 - fans behind the Cowboys’ bench unrolled a banner that read, “Andy, Quit, Your Team Has!”
Reid made it clear earlier this week that he won’t resign.
“I think that’d be a cop-out,” he said. “That’s not how I see things. That’s not the way I’m wired. We’re going to keep battling and do it as a team. I’m not going to tell the guys one thing and then do the other.”
The animosity toward Reid in Philadelphia only grew last Sunday, but not just because the team lost 31-6 at Washington. Reid let LeSean McCoy carry the ball in the final two minutes of a game that was out of hand, and the star runner suffered a concussion that will keep him out of this game.
McCoy sitting out will give Bryce Brown his first start since his senior year of high school in 2009, and fellow rookie Nick Foles will make a second straight start in place of Vick, concussed in the loss to Dallas.
Foles threw interceptions on Philadelphia’s first two possessions last Sunday and finished 21 of 46 for 204 yards. He was sacked four times behind an injury-plagued offensive line which has surrendered 33, third-most in the NFL entering Week 12.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera was Reid’s linebackers coach from 1999-2003 and also could be on the way out. Even Rivera said this week he didn’t know if he’ll keep his job beyond this season based on recent conversations with team owner Jerry Richardson.
“You can’t worry about who is going to go and who is going to stay. That is for the front office to decide,” defensive end Charles Johnson said. “But I’m going to fight with coach until the end. No matter what he does I’m going to ride with him.”
Six of the Panthers’ losses have been by six points or fewer, and they’ve led in the fourth quarter in four of them. They blew an 11-point lead in the final five minutes of regulation last Sunday in a 27-21 overtime loss to Tampa Bay.
“It’s tough when you lose (because) things aren’t as good as they are when you win, obviously,” said Rivera, 8-18 as Carolina’s coach. “Food doesn’t taste right. It’s difficult to communicate with people looking them in the eye and talking to them.”
Quarterback Cam Newton said close losses have been “the story of the season.” The former Heisman Trophy winner has thrown for nine touchdowns and rushed for four after combining for 35 as a rookie last season.
Newton now faces an Eagles pass defense which has allowed a combined 143.6 passer rating over the past four weeks, surrendering 11 touchdown passes and making no interceptions.
The Panthers have lost all three meetings since winning at Philadelphia in the 2004 NFC championship game.